How To Manage Your Personal and Professional Social Media Networks

Forty-three—that’s the percentage of employers who use social media networking sites to research job candidates, according to a study done by CareerBuilder. And 51 percent of those employers said they’ve found content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate.

Social media is an important part of most of our lives. As of 2017, 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile, and that number is expected to increase in 2018. Social media is how we connect with family and friends, stay up-to-date on current events, laugh at funny videos, share opinions, and so much more. But here’s the thing—as popular and entertaining as social media might be, there is also a level of risk that we take on when we sign up for a social media network.

When we were in high school, there’s a good chance that the last thing on our minds was whether or not our Facebook and Instagram profiles were appropriate for employers to see. We weren’t thinking about how to represent ourselves on Snapchat versus LinkedIn. But a significant amount of time has passed since those days, and now (whether we like it or not) we are young business professionals, and the way we represent ourselves on social media is extremely important.

So the question becomes, what is the best way to manage our personal and professional social media platforms?

There truly is no one right way to do it. In a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, they interviewed dozens of professional about their use of social media and discovered that there were several different strategies they were using:

#1: The Open Strategy

While this is definitely the simplest strategy, it is also the most riskiest. Utilizing an Open strategy means that you don’t attempt to separate your personal and professional social media platforms in any way. You can post whatever you’d like without caring about who will see it. If you value transparency and authenticity above everything else, this is the strategy for you.

#2: The Audience Strategy

This approach includes keeping your professional and personal networks separate. For example, on Facebook you might choose to only accept requests from people in your personal life, and divert requests from co-workers to LinkedIn. While this strategy requires a bit more work, it ensures that you won’t be viewed in an unprofessional manner if you post something on Facebook that you might not want your boss seeing. However, you need to remember that over time someone who was once just a friend may become a colleague, so this strategy is definitely not risk-free.

#3: The Content Strategy

But what if you feel like rejecting a friend request from a co-worker is rude? This is where the Content strategy comes in. You can accept requests from both personal and professional contacts on whichever networks you’d like! But here’s the catch: You have to be careful about the content that you post. While you don’t have to worry about separating your contacts according to what social media platform you are on, you can’t just post whatever you feel like.

#4: The Custom Strategy

If you are willing to invest the time and the effort, you may want to consider combining both the Audience and Content strategies, and thus use the Custom strategy. By managing both your audience and content, you can ensure that your professional reputation will be safe while also sustaining an authentic personal identity. One way to implement this strategy is to create two different lists on Facebook—one for personal contacts and one for professional contacts.

Which Strategy Should You Choose?

While there are pros and cons for each strategy, Harvard Business Review believes that most professionals would be best served by a Content or a Custom strategy:

“A Custom strategy allows for richer relationships to be forged with peers through the sharing of information that goes beyond the strictly professional. At the same time, it saves the boss from seeing too many party and baby pictures, and spares friends all the job-related content that means nothing to them. However, you must have the capabilities to execute this Custom strategy effectively or else it could backfire. A Content strategy is the next best alternative that requires fewer capabilities, but may allow you to connect with a broad audience effectively.”

However, at the end of the day, there is no “perfect” strategy, and you should choose the approach that you feel the most comfortable with. Be aware of the risks associated with each strategy, consider the industry that you work in, and don’t forget to take the future into account. While it may seem overwhelming at times, thinking through and choosing your own strategy is worth the time and effort to ensure that you are managing your social media networks effectively.

Curious about how your peers manage their personal and professional social media networks? Watch this video to find out!